Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 40, No. 3, 436–449, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article examines the perceptions of experienced teachers who take on the role of leading the development of subject knowledge of new and experienced teachers through a case-study approach.
All of the teachers participating in this research were leading the professional development of student-teachers or of new and experienced teachers, usually in a school setting, to advance the subject knowledge of those attending the session. Seven teachers were interviewed altogether, male and female, primary and secondary.
Data were collected using semi-structured interviews and a reflective log completed over the period of the study by the teachers working with student-teachers.
The findings reveal that each teacher was able to identify the impact of leading professional development has on their professional skills. Some of the teachers identified that their professional knowledge and understanding increased through the preparation. Others have more confidence as professionals in their own skills and understanding about teaching and learning because they have developed a better understanding of theories behind good practice from working alongside more experienced colleagues.
Several identified an impact on their professional attitude as leading professional development helped maintain their enthusiasm and passion for their own learning and development.
This new role has changed the way that they view themselves as teachers, and their practice as teachers.
The experience of being alongside professionals, discussing and learning together, learning from their responses and seeing the benefit received by participants has given these teachers a new appreciation of the value of their personal expertise developed in the classroom.
Furthermore, a variety of professional skills have developed from this experience, including using new tools in decision-making as a head of faculty and the ability to enthuse other professionals in their practice.
In addition, the new role has also contributed for some teachers to their leadership role and career progression, for example, four teachers identified that they had become nationally recognised as teachers with advanced skills as a result of the opportunities and experience they gained through leading professional development. Two have become heads of science and two are currently working on the school senior leadership team, which they link to the experience and confidence developed through this experience.
The research revealed insights into experiences of becoming a teacher educator; the impact on them as teachers and leaders; and how they see their own identities developing. Not all of the participants embraced an identity as a teacher educator. The findings are compared with teachers making the transition from school teacher to teacher educator in higher education institutions in the literature, to discover commonalities that could guide the planning of professional development opportunities. There are Higher Education Institution (HEI)-based teacher educators who have followed a more ‘traditional’ transition from being a school teacher; there are those working in HEI and school part-time, having a role as a teacher educator in both settings; and there are those who have the dual role of teacher and teacher educator within their school or further education establishment, thereby being solely school-based. In this continuum between being HEI-based and school-based, those who are taking up the new role of teacher educator will experience a transition whilst they grow to understand and share in the responsibilities, knowledge and practices of the new role.
School-based teacher educators may face additional challenges in this transition with the different expectations of working as, or with, an accredited provider of ITE, with alternative priorities and perhaps distinctive philosophies. They will gain a new responsibility in terms of outcomes for students and teachers from their sessions. They will have the extra issue of continuing the role of teacher whilst developing a new aspect to their identity. When both roles occur in the same setting, there may be considerable impact from peers, or from the perception held by the teacher educator of what peers might think. The school leadership may not value each role equally.
The author argues that it is essential that teacher educators attend to the development of a professional identity in this role. Teachers taking on the role of teacher educators in their workplace have been reported to experience an ‘identity crisis’ (Clemans et al. 2010, p. 215) due to having a secure professional identity as an effective classroom teacher whilst sensing a lack of expertise and confidence in leading the professional learning of colleagues.
In conclusion, this research advocates the provision of opportunities for new teacher educators to be involved with other teacher educators, including those more experienced, to explore together their professional knowledge, practice and identity.
Clemans, A., Berry, A., and Loughran, J., 2010. Lost and found in transition: the professional journey of teacher educators. Professional development in education, 36 (1–2), 211–228.